Brixton is a borough which has come under a familiar spotlight in recent times for its changing complexion as a result of London gentrification. One entity which has remained quietly behind the scenes – online and in market stalls in the area – has recently taken a bold leap forward and opened its first record shop.
Dedicated to selling all strands of reggae, Lion Vibes was born from a Brixton market stall and developed hand in hand with an eponymous label. Now with its first permanent home, we took a look around and spoke to owner Matt Downs about their their role in catering for Brixton’s love for reggae music, a deep-rooted characteristic of the area’s cultural makeup.
Lion Vibes has been an online retailer for a while now, could you tell us a little bit of the story behind this? Why did you decide to become a physical entity?
The Lion Vibes story starts nearly 20 years ago now when we began our five year+ stint trading from a market stall in Brixton market. We dealt in imported pre releases from Jamaica and some second hand records. It was during this time that I started to go to Jamaica and record new roots music for my label Lion Vibes, which continues to this day. In fact we have just released our 30th single on 45 called Blaze 4.20 out of Jamaica again with a new rising artist called Onton.
Around this time the whole online thing was moving so naturally we started our online shop, which is thriving to this day and is the home to rare and collectible original press records mainly from the 60s and 70s. The shop grew out of the desire to have a physical presence in my hometown of Brixton and expand the new musical choice we offer.
What has the reception been like so far?
The shop has now been open for just over a month and it’s already exceeded expectations. Sales of vinyl and record players have rocketed in recent times. It’s great to have young people in the shop buying the latest music from Jamaica to the UK and all over the world.
What can we expect to see on the racks of Lion Vibes?
Lion Vibes has the best and latest hand picked vinyl every week. We also stock some great collectors original press too.
What is the significance of the store being located in Brixton and how do you think it fits in with Brixton’s changing identity?
Brixton has seen a lot of changes, mostly for the better. Opening a reggae specialist shop again in the heart of the most important and historical area for reggae is very special for us. We are at 98 Brixton Village, right next to what would have been Alton Ellis shop to one side and Muzic City on the other. Joe’s Record Shack and Soferno B were the other side. Carrying on this tradition is something we are very proud of.
What does the rest of 2016 hold for Lion Vibes?
For 2016 we will endeavor to serve our customers and hunt down the best reggae music from all over the world. We will be hosting events at the shop..single and album launches plus doing live shows..Our label will be putting out some great new 45s this year.
Finally are there any artists you think will be taking 2016 by storm and that you’ll be supporting through the store?